At first glance, USA’s new show Rush looks like it takes Royal Pains’ “doctor-for-hire” theme, adds Tom Ellis to the mix, and throws on a bad-boy label just for fun. But after last night’s premiere, it turns out that what you think you see with Rush is not at all what you get.
In the series’ pilot, viewers meet Dr. Will Rush in a less-than-flattering scenario. In other words, he’s doing cocaine with a young woman when she has a heart attack and he’s forced to shock her back to life and then take her to the nearest “club,” which looks a lot like an emergency room. Still high himself, Rush drops the woman off with his best friend, an ER doc, and then heads back to his life of doctoring on the run. Basically, Rush makes house calls for a living. He’s one of the best doctors around, but his skill isn’t his only draw. Rather, it’s his ability to be discreet that puts him in such high demand.
Rush is the guy you want to call if you’re a famous athlete and your girlfriend needs stitches after you’ve physically abused her, for instance. Or he’s the guy you want to call if you’re a famous movie producer who just broke his penis and you don’t want the paparazzi to catch you on the way to the hospital. Rush makes up his own fees on the spot—and they’re high—and asks for cash payments upfront.
But between Rush’s own drug addiction and some of the situations his “discreet” job gets him in, Rush is a much more sinister character than the charming bad boy the show originally portrayed him as. In the pilot alone, he agrees to help his drug dealer, which results in him having to operate on a gunshot victim in a warehouse with a gun to his own head. And as for Rush’s personal life, the woman he loves refuses to get back together with him because his work and his addiction make him someone she can’t count on. Rush might be successful, but the way he lives his life causes him to struggle with right and wrong on a daily basis. By the end of the pilot, he has to make a house call to once again help out one of his best clients, a famous athlete, after said athlete nearly beats his girlfriend to death. In that moment, Rush reaches a breaking point and takes a bat to the athlete, breaking his legs, hand, and more.
So do Rush’s actions make this show darker than typical USA programming? Not necessarily. USA is no stranger to violence (Graceland) or the rebel-type (Burn Notice). However, the darker side of USA shows tends to be just that—one side. For example, Royal Pains’ Hank once had a problem with pill addiction, but it was a storyline that didn’t stick. Or there’s USA’s Suits, where the definition of “dark” typically involves Harvey and Mike playing dirty by getting personal in the work world. What sets Rush apart from other USA shows is that it is fundamentally dark—and that darkness is not simply one element of the show but intertwined into every element of the show.
For example, going into the rest of the season, Rush is without the woman he loves, he’s still dealing with his addictions, and he’s fallen into an accidental relationship with a group of gangsters. Although he might not look it on the posters, he’s an incredibly troubled character, not just a charming guy with a dark side. Sure, he still has a lighter side and a sense of humor that makes him fun to watch. But at his core, Rush is profoundly unhappy—a fact that makes him 10 times more fascinating than the guy viewers got a glimpse of in the trailer.
All in all, Rush’s chaotic and morally ambiguous lifestyle makes USA a more interesting place to be. Although Rush can’t quite be called an antihero, this show could be seen as USA’s attempt to join into the Walter White bandwagon. Rush is certainly not that extreme, but as the golden age of TV has shown us, people enjoy a complex (if not downright evil) protagonist, and if there’s one thing Rush is not, it’s a perfect hero.